I used to get told a lot how very, very calm I am. I don’t get that here: I don’t know what the difference is, but people here think I am a lot more fragile than they do in the US. Part of it is that I am thin, and basically they think you have to be fat to be healthy here in Country X, which is probably going to contribute to their alarmingly fast increase in obesity-related diseases. (Almost everyone between 25 and 50 is at an unhealthy weight. They are also catching onto Western standards of beauty, and are also getting ideas that to be beautiful, you must be thin. To be healthy, you must be overweight and to be beautiful, you must be underweight. The future of this does not look good at all…)

Anyway, they were all yelling and panicking in the staff room today and I couldn’t handle it. After one or two minutes of it, I felt like a little child inside who just wanted everyone to please stop yelling. I was, actually, waiting for everyone to leave so that I could make a call. They have class and were late for it, and it was inevitable they would leave. But evidently whatever they were yelling about had to be one first thing. So once that was done, it would be quiet again.

I began to realize they can do this. They can freak out and calm down again, and I can’t. Once I get out of the range of what I can cope with, it’s really very difficult for me. It takes a lot more effort for me to bring my level of arousal down, because I didn’t learn to do that as a child. It’s still a newer skill, and it is probably why I have for years appeared to be very calm. I have to be calm. Once I am not calm, I cannot calm down again very well. Also, there is all this other trauma to deal with every time there is something like this. I get to deal with memories of my mom yelling and having psychotic breaks and people shouting because there has been a brutal murder. I have a lot more to deal with. I have to be calm, because once I am not calm, I cannot get back to calm again. Calm has to be worked at every second.

There is this huge weight of grief. Not that having to be calm is such a tremendous deal, but the idea that my life is so different and who I am is so different because of who my parents were and because they could not care for me.

I think it is hitting me harder because I am caring for C, or at least trying to. I didn’t get this kind of care. No one tried to help me or understand me. I just felt shame that I could not cope. I just tried to conceal it, because I could not trust anyone to help me grow up or fill the gaps my parents had left me with.

I think also that this grief has been very important in the process. It was stalled for many years, and because of that I really couldn’t heal very well. The grief never seemed to be allowed. It did not seem like something that could be lived with: it seemed too catastrophic to cope with. Yes, I am different. I am, in some way, a broken human being and I need to be able to see and communicate what it feels like to be broken that way and to have my brain just not work the way everyone else’s seems to. And I also need to be able to see that I still have worth and value and something to contribute. It was as though I could not—and did not believe I was allowed to—communicate about both the loss and the hope I still have for the future. The brokenness is both serious and worth paying attention and not the end of the world. I can see both the cloud and the silver lining at the same time, but I didn’t know that was possible before.

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